Government and community leaders attended the official launch this week of a unique new training program in Wagmatcook First Nation. The Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry Program.

Sixteen people from Unama’ki communities in Cape Breton are receiving specialized apprenticeship training and work experience to achieve Red Seal carpentry certification, filling the need for local Red Seal carpenters.

The Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry program is being led by the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office (MEBO) with support from the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, the Saint Francis Xavier University’s Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI), Nova Scotia Community College, Labour and Advanced Education, Mi’kmaw Employment Training Secretariat and Cape Breton First Nation communities.

“This is truly a join effort, project that addresses a need in our communities and helps our people gain valuable work experience and training and most importantly, filling a need in our communities for Red Seal carpenters,” said Chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni, the lead chief for education in Nova Scotia.

With the help of MEBO, our communities developed Unama’ki Apprenticeship Strategy, and our objective is to increase the number of Mi’kmaq completing their apprenticeship journey achieving Red Seal Certification. This Enhanced Direct Entry program is an important step in the implementation of this strategy. I understand this program is very unique and the first of its kind in the province.

This is truly an innovative initiative that addresses multiple needs in our communities. This program demonstrates how we can work together to create a more skilled, diversified and productive workforce in Nova Scotia,” said Chief Denny.

This program will put more emphasis on critical work experience and less emphasis on the classroom. “I am thrilled that the classroom components is being delivered here in one of our communities, here at the Wagmatcook Learning Centre. Apprentices can stay in their communities while learning practical carpentry skills, and complete the required classroom training,” said Chief Norman Bernard, Wagmatcook First Nation. “They are learning their trade here at home while helping to address the need for more skilled carpenters in Mi’kmaw communities.”

The extensive work experience will be in each participants community, building new houses or working with housing departments for repairs, renovations. I hope this program will lead to more innovative programs that help support the needs of our communities, of our people and of our province.

“By partnering and working collaboratively with multiple organizations, the Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry Program demonstrates how working together is the way forward to create a more skilled, resilient, and productive workforce in Nova Scotia,” said Alex Paul, Executive Director, Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office. “We have been able to develop a truly innovative initiative that addresses multiple needs in our communities, made possible by leveraging partnerships and programs available within our province.” Labi Kousoulis, Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education was special guest at the event.

This winter, participants from Cape Breton First Nation communities started the program with classroom-based basic carpentry skills, math and safety training, delivered by the Nova Scotia Community College. They began work placements this spring. In August, they will return to the Wagmatcook Learning Centre and alternate between apprenticeship technical training in the classroom and on-site training until certification is complete. The program also includes weekly communication sessions between participants and workplace mentors during the on-the-job training phase.

The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office are overseeing the program including workplace monitoring, apprenticeship technical training and certification of apprentices. The Nova Scotia Community College is the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency’s delivery partner for technical training.

“Hands-on, practical experience is the best training for any job, and the best way for us to learn the carpentry trade,” said program participant Richard Benson of Waycobah First Nation. “I am grateful for the opportunity to take my carpentry apprenticeship classroom training and get the necessary work experience in my own community.”

The provincially funded New Opportunities for Work (NOW) program provides employers with a $10.50 per hour wage subsidy for two years. In turn, the employer must top up the participant’s wage to a minimum of $15 per hour and provide a minimum of two-year full-time employment. The program also provides funding for participant and employer training, and wrap around participant supports.

The program was designed to help bridge the gap between people who are underrepresented in Nova Scotia’s workplaces and employers who need trained workers. To support an inclusive workforce, the program works with First Nations, African Nova Scotians, racially visible people, Nova Scotians on Employment Support and Income Assistance, persons with disabilities, and workers over 55 years of age.